Adjusting to College

For Freshmen

MU is committed to supporting you as you navigate challenges, explore opportunities and meet new people. Taking advantage of the many different resources will help you as you adjust to living away from home for the first time.

Things to consider:

    • You will experience increased freedom and responsibility and making choices about when and how to study, socialize, get involved, budget money, exercise, eat and sleep. Remember to stick to your own values.
    • Learning to balance your time will be important to your success at Mizzou. Using a planner to schedule obligations and social time may be helpful.
    • Relationships with family members and people back home may change.
    • Adjusting to new people can be exciting and challenging. You’ll learn new ways to interact, address conflict, and understand the world.
    • Take care of yourself by getting good sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising, resting and playing. Schedule study time in advance and stick to your schedule.

For Transfer Students

Mizzou cares about you and wants to support you get connected, make friends, and learn your way around campus. Transferring to a new campus can be both exciting and challenging. You may find yourself facing changes you were not expecting. Take advantage of the many different resources as you become a Mizzou Tiger.

Things to consider:

    • Hang out on campus whenever possible. Doing so will help you build connections at Mizzou.
    • It may take a little while to find your niche here. Joining a group will help you make connections and help you build your resume, gain leadership skills, and enjoy your time at Mizzou.
    • Meet with your advisor to better understand your transfer credits and what you need to graduate.
    • Take care of yourself by getting good sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising, resting and playing. Schedule study time and stick to the schedule.

For International Students

All students face challenges when adjusting to a new college.

International students face even more new experiences and challenges.

International students generally report experiencing four phases of adjustment.

  1. Honeymoon: Everything is great! You are having a wonderful time.
  2. Shock: There are so many differences in this country, and you aren’t sure how to deal with them. You didn’t think it would be like this.
  3. Negotiation: You learn to deal with challenges and try to integrate them with your own beliefs.
  4. Acceptance: You are able to live well in your new environment despite the differences you are experiencing.

Things to consider

Greetings. Americans often greet each other with a handshake or hug, regardless of gender. Many will ask, “How are you?”. This is often another way of saying hello. The most common reply is, “I’m fine, how are you?” Spatial distance is an important aspect of non-verbal communication. Most Americans stand about three feet apart when talking.

Friendship. Most people at Mizzou will be friendly. However, they will talk about hobbies, politics, sports, or current events rather than personal matters such as finances or family problems.

Tips to help you adjust

Be patient with yourself. Many international students experience some adjustment concerns while they are here. Recognize the problem, and give yourself time to adjust. Take some of the actions below to make your transition easier.

Be active. Getting out of your house and spending time with Americans will allow you to watch and learn American customs faster.

Make American friends. Spending time with American friends will allow you to learn more and ask questions about customs you don’t understand.

Read. American newspapers and news websites help you learn more about current events and life in America. Reading will help you understand the culture better and make it easier to join in conversations.

Exercise. Staying physically active will help lower stress and help prevent depression. Enjoy the many parks and trails around Mizzou or visit MizzouRec.

Community. Join a campus group or go to an event. Getting involved will help you feel more connected in Columbia.

Professors. Your instructors are generally happy to help. You will be most likely to receive the support you need from faculty members if you communicate directly and ask specific questions.

Culture shock. Culture shock is a common challenge people face when moving into a new environment with different customs, language, food, and/or values. Symptoms of culture shock may include:

  • Boredom
  • Intense loyalty to home culture
  • Extreme homesickness
  • Withdrawing from Americans
  • Headaches or upset stomach
  • Change of appetite
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Increased sense of physical pain
  • Depression
  • Anger over minor inconveniences
  • Unexplained crying
  • Relationship stress
  • Difficulty completing work or study
  • Exaggerated cleanliness

MU Counseling Center. Contact the MU Counseling Center if you notice that you are having a difficult time adjusting to life at MU. Our staff can help you adapt and be successful.

For Graduate or Professional Students

“Being a graduate student is like becoming all of the Seven Dwarves. In the beginning you’re Dopey and Bashful. In the middle, you are usually sick (Sneezy), tired (Sleepy), and irritable (Grumpy). But at the end, they call you Doc, and then you’re Happy.”
– Ronald T. Azuma, UNC 1995

Finding strategies for coping with the new world of graduate school is important for your academic success, but even more important for your well-being.

  • Be patient with yourself, expect things to be very different from your undergrad experience and give yourself time to adjust to the new roles, grading systems, ambiguity, social scene, and work load.
  • Find a mentor. Invite a third year student for coffee and ask them what they wish they’d known going into their first year or about how your department works.
  • Be kind to yourself. Grades don’t define you. Strive for your best and know that some days good enough is…good enough.
  • Educate your support system. Explain to family and friends what you are feeling and experiencing as you start your graduate experience. Ask directly for what you need from those closest to you. If you are in a relationship it can be helpful to set a time that is set in stone to be together for a date night, breakfast, walk, etc.
  • Set your strategy. Maximize your long-term productivity by protecting some time for yourself and knowing when an assignment or paper can simply be good enough. Schedule non-work time and self-care time to help keep your batteries charged and relationships healthy.
  • Expect to feel like an impostor. It’s normal to feel confused, and to feel like you are the only one not keeping up or understanding material. You are not. Nearly every graduate or professional student goes through difficult periods or classes when they feel out of their depth. It’s okay to talk to colleagues and friends, you’ll likely find they the same way at times.
  • Break big tasks down. Comps, thesis, and dissertation can feel like insurmountable obstacles. Talk to students who have completed that step of the process and get tips about how they made it. Break tasks down into smaller goals and try to see these as just another task to do in grad school.
  • Recruit your cheering section. Notice who in your life seems to get it and now when you need encouragement, support, a pep talk, or a kick in the pants. Be that person for others in your department of circle of friends.
  • Take opportunities. The Graduate School, Graduate and Professional Council, and possibly your department provide opportunities for socializing or professional development. Take the opportunities when you can. These are opportunities to develop friendships, professional connections, and often to just take care of yourself.